Brainerd will soon know the cost of the proposed downtown improvement project scheduled for later this year.
The Brainerd City Council in a 4-2 vote Tuesday approved the plans and specifications and authorized advertisement for bids for the utility, street and streetscape project.
Streets affected by the project will be Laurel Street from South Sixth to South Eighth streets, Front Street from South Sixth to South Eighth streets and South Seventh Street from Maple to Front streets. The total project will cost an estimated $2.4 million and include street surface, infrastructure and streetscape reconstruction. Thirty percent of the project cost will be assessed to downtown property owners and 70 percent will be paid by the city.
Council member Mary Koep voted against because the approval included streetscape items, which she felt were not necessary. She also said the city couldn't afford to pay 70 percent of the project at this time.
Council member Anne Nelson Fisher reminded the council that that many streetscape items, which include pavers, benches and trees, are considered alternate items and can be accepted or rejected after bids are received.
"I think it's in the best interest of the city to improve downtown and that includes the appearance of downtown," Fisher said.
Council member Kelly Bevans also voted against. As a downtown property owner, council member Bob Olson abstained from voting.
If bids are accepted, the project is projected to start in April or May and be completed by the end of July.
In other action, the council:
Approved a report on a proposed tax-increment financing district for the former Casey's gas station on Washington Street in northeast Brainerd, based on a determination from Building Official Tim Caughey that the site meets the criteria for redevelopment. A developer has proposed building a Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant at the site. TIF for the site was not approved Tuesday.
Decided by a 4-3 vote against participating in the Commerce and Industry Show following a recommendation from City Administrator Dan Vogt, who suggested it as a means to save the city money. Last year the city paid $481 to be in the show. Voting against were council members Bonnie Cumberland, Goedker and Fisher.
Decided to hold Brainerd Area Civic Center dry floor rates at $100 per day for one arena and $200 per day for both arenas until June, when the item will be reviewed as part of budget discussions. Olson had suggested a 15 percent increase in dry floor rates and in the Personnel and Finance Committee Koep suggested a 5 percent increase. Other council members felt the item should be discussed in June because contracts for dry floor events have already been signed and the city should determine how much events cost the city.
Heard a statement from Council President Kevin Goedker, who said during his tenure he would follow the city's rules of decorum but encourage everyone to have the opportunity to speak. Goedker also said he would like to set up an action item list so issues don't fall through the cracks and hold town hall meetings following the second council meeting of each month, at which he would give people interested an update on what the council did and answer questions. In most cases Goedker said he would be the only council member attending, but City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick asked for the item to be put on hold for two weeks to allow him time to bring back an opinion on notification procedures.
Approved applying for the 2009 Small Cities Development Program for financial assistance for eligible areas and properties in downtown to assist with the cost of disconnecting roof drains from the sanitary sewer system and redirecting the roof drains to the stormwater system in conjunction with the downtown utility, street and streetscape reconstruction project. Olson, a downtown property owner, abstained from voting.
Approved applying to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, aimed at improving the city's housing stock through buying and rehabbing foreclosed homes, and targeted three areas in northeast and southeast Brainerd for the program. Other areas identified but not included were Brainerd Oaks and Northtown Addition.
Was informed Fisher and Brainerd Public Utilities Superintendent Tom Phelps would put together a priority list of energy saving ideas to bring back to the council in April.
Approved having Bevans work with Crow Wing County jail staffers on where sentence-to-serve crews could be used to perform jobs for the city.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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